Staff Directory

Prof Jan Coetzee
Research Fellow
1B 26A
IB 41
051 4012881
Main Building: South Block 26A

Short CV

Jan K Coetzee obtained the MA, BD and DPhil degrees at the University of Pretoria. He became Professor of Sociology at the University of the Free State in July 1979 and accepted an appointment as Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology and Industrial Sociology at Rhodes University in 1987. In 2010 he became Professor Emeritus at Rhodes University and in 2011 he was appointed a Senior Professor at the University of the Free State. In 2019 he became a Research Fellow in the Department.

His research interest in the 1980s and 1990s centred on the sociology of developing societies and he edited and co-edited a number of important textbooks in this field (among others Development is for People in 1989, ReconstructionDevelopment and People in 1996 and Development: Theory, Policy, and Practice in 2001). Since the middle of the 1990s he became more involved in qualitative research and the use of life histories and biographical accounts. His books Plain Tales from Robben Island (2000) and Fallen Walls: Voices from the Cells that Held Mandela and Havel (2002) were widely acclaimed and received the inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Book Award at Rhodes University in 2002. Other publications dealt with Life on the Margin (a book on the life stories of people living in informal settlements) in 2003 and The Fragmentary Method in Biographical Research in 2005. His most recent books are Books & Bones & Other Things (2019), Narrating the Everyday: Windows on life in central South Africa (2019), and The Book & The Skull (2020).

Professor Coetzee is a member of the Board of the Research Network for Qualitative Methods of the European Sociology Association.  He became a member of the International Advisory Board for the Sage Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis (Editor: Uwe Flick) (SAGE, London, 2014), Sage Handbook of Qualitative Data Collection (Editor: Uwe Flick) (SAGE, London, 2018) and Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research Design (Editor: Uwe Flick) (SAGE, London, 2021).

In 2012 he launched a new Master’s Degree by thesis in The narrative study of lives.  


The programme:  The narrative study of lives:

Professor Jan K Coetzee established the programme The narrative study of lives to form a platform for strengthening postgraduate training and research in Sociology. For a detailed analysis of the programme, see the article by Jan K Coetzee, Florian Elliker and Asta Rau: Training for advanced research in the narrative study of lives within the context of political and educational transformation: a case study in South Africa. (

Few methods of data collection capture context, meaning, experience, subjectivity, the lifeworld, and reflexivity as effectively as narratives. When people tell coherent and meaningful stories, embedded in a particular context, they reveal insights into our and other people’s experiences. The very essence of life story research -- especially in as far as narrative inquiry, life history and oral history are concerned -- provides an epistemological key to a wide scope of knowledge of everyday reality, indigenous knowledge, cultural transmission and community engagement.

Traditional documents of life often did not incorporate the voices of the majority of South Africa’s people. Apartheid suppressed their voices by relegating entire racial groups to the economic and cultural margins of society. Through political exclusion their experiences were hidden from most historical accounts and their views seldom played a role in representations and reconstructions of reality.  In step with new horizons and freedoms, everyday discourse on issues that reflect everyday life as explored by researchers and post graduate students in the programme The narrative study of lives contributes to greater inclusivity, and provides more opportunities for political and cultural participation and self-expression.




Heggenstaller, Alessandra. 2018. The role of cosmetic surgery in the embodied experience of female beauty: a narrative study in Bloemfontein, South Africa. PhD.


Thinane,Tsalameng, 2020. Presenting the ideal body:narratives of Instagram engagement by a group of African Black women. 

Yena, Gcobisa. 2018. Black African single mothers previously affected by violence and trauma: narratives of experience in the Mlungisi Township, Queenstown. MSocSc.

Setai, Phokeng. 2018. Experiencing the creative process: narratives of visual artists. MSocSc.

Pietersen, André. 2018. Online gamers, lived experiences and sense of belonging: a study of students at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein. MSocSc.

Sele, Sello. 2018. Online social networking: reflecting on social relations amongst a group of students, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein. MSocSc.

Rafoneke, SM. 2017. Lived experiences of young Black women with disabilities in Lesotho.

Chikonze, N. 2017. Growing old with HIV.

Majali, Z. 2016. The perceptions of femininity among young Black women in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Moletsane, ME. 2016. Between two worlds: everyday life of Basotho labour migrants in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Kok, M. 2015. Young and upwardly mobile: voices from historically disadvantaged groups.

Gumede, NA. 2015. Mother-daughter communication on intimate relationships: narratives from Mangaung Township (Bloemfontein, South Africa).

Mbelekani, N. Yvonne. 2014. Health-seeking practices and decision-making processes of women living in the Mangaung Township (Bloemfontein, South Africa). MSocSc.

Hellerle, Ferdi. 2014. The aging experience of English speaking older white women in central South Africa. MSocSc.

Heggenstaller, Alessandra K. 2013. Breast cancer and the medical encounter: experiences, perceptions, negotiations and transformations of identity and femininity. MSocSc.

Kotze, P. Conrad. 2013. Old stories and new chapters: a biographical study of white Afrikaans speaking identity in central South Africa. MSocSc.




Coetzee J.K. 2020. The Book & the Skull. (54pp.), 2020. Artist’s book in limited and numbered edition. Designed and printed by SUN MeDIA Publishers, Bloemfontein; Hand-bound by George Wentzel, Cape Town.

Coetzee, J.K., Rau, A. & Wojciechowska, M. (eds.). 2019. Narrating the Everyday: Windows on life in central South Africa. Bloemfontein: SUN MeDIA. ISBN: 978-1-928424-18-5.

Coetzee J.K. 2018. Books & Bones & Other Things. (215pp.) SUN PReSS Publishers, Bloemfontein, 2018.

Rau, A., Elliker, F. & Coetzee, J.K. 2018. Collecting Data for Analyzing Discourses. Chapter 19: The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Collection (ed.: Uwe Flick). London: SAGE. ISBN: 9781473952133.  Available:



Coetzee, Jan K. 2020. Narrating Emotions: Towards Deeper Understanding. Qualitative Sociology Review 16(1):12-27, 2020. DOI:


SPECIAL EDITION 14 (OCTOBER, 2018):  Many of the articles  are based on the dissertations of Master`s and PhD graduates in the programme The narrative study of lives.  In this important, but often neglected, `cap` to postgraduate training, they were supported by the book’s editors and by other national and international partners. 

Coetzee, Jan K. and Asta Rau. Narratives and Everyday Life. Qualitative Sociology Review 14(4):6-142018. DOI:

Coetzee, Jan K. Deconstructing My Library, Unwrapping My Lifeworld. Qualitative Sociology Review 14(4):16-30, 2018. DOI:

Heggenstaller, Alessandra K., Asta Rau, Jan K. Coetzee, Anne Ryen, and Ria Smit. Reflecting on Female Beauty: Cosmetic Surgery and (Dis)Empowerment. Qualitative Sociology Review 14(4):48-65, 2018. DOI:

Heggenstaller, Alessandra K., Asta Rau, Jan K. Coetzee, Ria Smit, and Anne Ryen. Beauty and the Cosmetic Secret. Qualitative Sociology Review 14(4):66-84, 2018. DOI:

Setai, Phokeng T., Jan K. Coetzee, Christoph Maeder, Magdalena Wojciechowska, and Leane Ackermann. The Creative Process. A Case for Meaning-Making. Qualitative Sociology Review 14(4):86-99, 2018. DOI:

Sele, Sello J., Jan K. Coetzee, Florian Elliker, Cornie Groenewald, and Sethulego Z. Matebesi. Online Social Networking, Interactions, and Relations: Students at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein. Qualitative Sociology Review 14(4):100-120, 2018. DOI: 8077.14.4.07.

Pietersen, André J., Jan K. Coetzee, Dominika Byczkowska-Owczarek, Florian Elliker, and Leane Ackermann. Online Gamers, Lived Experiences, and Sense of Belonging: Students at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein. Qualitative Sociology Review 14(4):122-137, 2018.  DOI:

Chikonzo, Ndakaitei, Asta Rau, Jan K. Coetzee, Anne Ryen, Florian Elliker, and Amanda Young-Hauser. A Shock to the System: HIV among Older African Women in Zimbabwe. Qualitative Sociology Review 14(4):138-152, 2018. DOI:

Rafoneke, Seithati, Jan K. Coetzee, Pia H. Bülow, Penny Jaffray, and Amanda Young-Hauser. Experiencing Physical Disability: Young African Women in Lesotho. Qualitative Sociology Review 14(4):154-167, 2018. DOI:


SPECIAL EDITION 13 (JANUARY, 2017): Many of the articles are based on the dissertations of Master`s and PhD graduates from the programme The narrative study of lives. In this important, but often neglected, `cap` to postgraduate training, they were supported by the book’s editors and by other national and international partners. 


Coetzee, Jan K. and Rau, Asta. The narrative study of lives: Editorial notes. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):6-9, 2017.

Coetzee, Jan K. and Rau, Asta. Between enslavement and liberation. Narratives of belonging from two farm workers in rural South Africa. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):10-31, 2017.

Kotze, P. Conrad and Coetzee, Jan K. The everyday in a time of transformation: exploring a single South African life-world after 20 years of democracy. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):32-54, 2017.

Kok, Michael, Coetzee, Jan K. and Elliker, Florian. Overcoming the divide: an interpretive exploration of young Black South Africans’ lived experiences of upward mobility in Central South Africa. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):56-73, 2017.

Moletsane, ‘Malilimala, Coetzee, Jan K. and Asta Rau. Being the stranger: experiences of Lesotho migrants. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):74-91,2017.

Kelly, Melissa, Moletsane, ‘Malilimala and Coetzee, Jan K. Basotho narratives: migrant perspectives on the Lesotho-South Africa border. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):92-110,  2017.

Elliker, Florian, Kotze, P. Conrad and Coetzee, Jan K. Group identity and groupness: student experiences of a university. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):112-134, 2017.

Heggenstaller, Alessandra K., de Wet, Katinka, Coetzee, Jan K. and Elliker, Florian. Experiencing breast cancer: reflections of women attending a private hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):136-157,  2017.

Majali, Zukiswa, Coetzee, Jan K. and Asta Rau. Everyday hair discourses of African black women. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):158-172, 2017.

Masenya, Veronica, de Wet, Katinka and Coetzee, Jan K. Narrating everyday precarity: women’s voices from resource poor areas. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):192-209, 2017.

Mbelekani, N. Yvonne, Young-Hauser, Amanda M. and Coetzee, Jan K. The sangoma or the healthcare centre? Health-seeking practices of women living in the Mangaung Township (Bloemfontein, South Africa). Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):210-227, 2017.

Gumede, Ntombizonke A., Young-Hauser, Amanda M. and Coetzee, Jan K. Mother-daughter communication on intimate relationships in a Mangaung township in South Africa. Qualitative Sociology Review, 13(1):228-244, 2017.



Kotze, P. Conrad; Coetzee, Jan K.; Elliker, Florian & Eberle, Thomas S. Strangers but for stories: The role of storytelling in the construction of contemporary White Afrikaans-speaking identity in central South Africa. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16(1), Art. 20, 2015.

Young-Hauser, Amanda M.; Coetzee, Jan K. & Maramnco, Kwakhe. Eating the sweat from my forehead: Farm worker narratives in pre- and post-apartheid South Africa. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 16(2), Art. 30, 2015.

Coetzee, Jan K. Nuwe bedeling, Ou bewussyn: Die verhale van lyfeiene. LitNet Akademies (Geesteswetenskappe) Vol. 11 (2): 25-8-2014, 2014.

Rau, Asta, Radloff, Sarah, Coetzee, Jan K. et al. Students perceiving risk: A quantitative assessment on three South African university campuses. African Sociological Review Vol 18 (1): 65-90, 2014.

Kotze, Conrad P and Coetzee, Jan K. Optimizing the epistemological potential of focus groups in research on a contested issue. Qualitative Sociology Review X(2):30-41, 2014.

Elliker, Florian, Coetzee, Jan K. and Kotze, P. Conrad. On the interpretive work of reconstructing discourses and their local contexts. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 14(3), Art 4, 2013.

Coetzee, Jan K., Elliker, Florian and Rau, Asta. Training for advanced research in the narrative study of lives within the context of political transformation: A case study in South Africa. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 14(2), Art 8, 2013.

Coetzee, Jan K. Narrating memory: weighing up the testimony. Qualitative Sociology Review VII (3):31-43, 2011.

Vice, Amy; Coetzee, Jan K.; Rau, Asta. Narrating student life in a time of risk. Qualitative Sociology Review VI (3): 81-98, 2010.

Coetzee, Jan K and Rau, Asta. Narrating trauma and suffering: towards understanding intersubjectively constituted memory.  Forum: Qualitative Social Research 10(2)Art 14, 2009.


Area(s) of Interest

Qualitative sociology - Interpretive theories and constructivist methodology
Narrative study of lives - Biographical research
Sociology of art - Production of culture

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.